A Beautiful Mess


The messy desk can be more efficient than a computer. 

The Social Life of Paper gives a very interesting perspective on the value of paper over other technologies.

Tufte’s Thinking and Paper discussion takes this concept further.

Anand Argarawala’s Bump Top brings the mess of the real desktop to the virtual desktop.

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Information Overload or Organization Underload

Simple Design, Intense Content introduced us to Edward Tufte.

Tufte’s notable talent:  communicating highly complex analytical data in an accessible presentation.  His principles can also be extended to website design.

The relevance of Tufte’s principles was to me to illustrate how much structured information can be compressed if we aren’t limited to cookie-cutter approaches.  However, that implies a tremendous creative effort at least by a few individuals to process and compress information in innovative ways.

Tufte teaches that Information Overload is due to Organization Underload.  An example of this is the number of dimensions one utilizes to structure a design.  In a past post I used this graphic (click to see enlarged):


What I was trying to convey was that there are generic multidimensional strategies well beyond a bipolar organization such as form and function.  One of those strategies is the basic interrogatives which I presented as follows:


Instead of a bipolar organization we have a hexapolar organization.  We are able to take the interaction we are trying to achieve and consider it from a more diverse number of focuses.  This refines our website design by filtering out unnecessary goals, data, processes, browsers, events and audiences and enabling us to enhance what remains. 

If your website is still too complex it may be necessary to consider a duodecapolar (12 focus) organization, but that is outside the scope of this post.  However, I do recommend exploring Faceted Classification.

Simple Design, Intense Content


Edward Tufte is regarded as “the Da Vinci of Data”.  His statement that his objective is “simple design, intense content” reflects what has been prevalent in the most popular websites.  Tufte is an accomplished skeptic routinely dismantling the obfuscation of data across the entire spectrum of communicators.  His published works can be regarded as equivalent to William Strunk’s Elements of Style for the presentation of data.

Any website to have it’s form properly designed requires a background in Tufte’s work.

 I also highly recommend browsing Tufte’s Ask ET Page

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